Educators: Play Literacy

Play Literacy supports the idea that children learn best through play. Young children can learn the fun, as well as the importance, of reading and writing in everyday life through imaginative play. Madison Public Library's Play Literacy program is based on the work of early childhood educator Gretchen Owocki, author of Literacy Through Play (Heinemann, 1999)

The Madison Public Library provides Play Literacy in several ways.

  1. Play Literacy events are offered in libraries or as an outreach service to preschool classrooms in Madison.
  2. Families with young children can also experience the fun of Playing with Literacy during Preschool Storytimes at libraries, where many of the elements of Play Literacy are incorporated into stories, songs, participation activities, crafts and more.
  3. And, at the Central Library, along with several libraries (currently Sequoya and Pinney), we have a Play Literacy Corner, where young children can play with toys and literacy right in the Children's Room or areas. Themes change monthly.

Play Literacy was featured in a front page article in the Wisconsin State Journal. The article, A Reading Lesson (in disguise): Preschool kids play imaginative games that help build literacy, was featured in the Monday, August 7, 2006 edition.

For more information, please contact:
Madison Public Library Youth Services at

What does a typical Play Literacy program look like?

Madison Public Library staff and preschool teachers work together to make Play Literacy a successful experience for children.

The Madison Public Library Youth Services Librarian brings all of the supplies needed for a Play Literacy visit: toys and literacy materials related to a theme, such as Post Office, Fishing, or Ice Cream Stand. After reading a related story, library staff model how to play and emphasize the literacy activities that go along with the theme. Staff incorporate pretend reading and writing into the program through group-based and individual literacy activities. For example, staff might write a grocery list or a letter and read a menu or a fishing map, and then help the children to do the same. Children and adults then have the opportunity to play with the toys ("go shopping," "take pizza orders," "play post office.")

At the end of the program, children and teachers may have an opportunity to check out library books for their classroom. For more information about obtaining or using a library card, contact the Central Circulation Department at 266-6357.